Lee Rigby's father says military cuts are hurting families after his son's unit was scrapped by the MoD

  • The 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers are being disbanded as part of government money saving measures
  • But critics claims axing the regiment, which is one of the best recruited in the Armed Forces, makes no sense and that others should be cut instead
  • Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has ignored criticism in his bid to reduce army personnel from 102,000 to 82,000

By Jack Doyle

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Murdered: Drummer Lee Rigby was hacked to death near Woolwich Barracks in south east London on May 22 this year

Murdered: Drummer Lee Rigby was hacked to death near Woolwich Barracks in south east London on May 22 this year

The father of murdered soldier Lee Rigby has blasted the Ministry of Defence for scrapping his unit under controversial military cuts .

Grieving Ian Rigby said ministers were 'hurting a lot of families' by disbanding the 2nd Battalion the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers (2RRF) to save money.

Defence Secretary Philip Hammond has ignored critics to press ahead with axing some of the Army's most distinguished battalions to reduce personnel from 102,000 to 82,000 - its lowest strength in more than 250 years.

Yet campaigners claim the 2RRF is one of the best recruited regiments in the Armed Forces, while some battalions that have been saved are hugely under-strength.

Mr Rigby spoke out as hundreds of veterans attended a protest march in Westminster on Tuesday against the scrapping of a historic battalion.

His 25-year-old son, a married father of a little boy, survived bombs and bullets in Afghanistan with his regiment only to be hacked to death in a terror attack in broad daylight outside Woolwich Barracks, south-east London, in May. Two men have denied his murder.

Urging the Government to rethink the decision, Mr Rigby said: 'They [2RRF] are like a clan of brothers, and that family has closed around us. They've taken us into their family, and that's what the Fusiliers is all about.

'Take away the heart of a regiment, it takes away the history, and it hurts a lot of families. Once a Fusilier, always a Fusilier.'

 

Wearing distinctive red-and-white plumes in their berets, the former Fusiliers marched to the sound of a fife and drum band as they delivered a petition opposing the cuts to Downing Street.

The 2nd Battalion of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers has five companies with 600 personnel. It is an infantry battalion of the regiment which has served in conflicts since 1674.

Fusiliers Association chairman Colonel Ian Brazier - who heckled the Defence Secretary as a 'disgrace' during his Conservative Party conference speech last month - led the parade.

He said: 'It makes absolutely no sense for 2RRF to be disbanded.

Protest: Former members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers march from Downing Street after handing in a petition to save the battalion earlier this week

Protest: Former members of the Royal Regiment of Fusiliers march from Downing Street after handing in a petition to save the battalion earlier this week

Marching on Parliament: The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers will be cut as part of government plans to replace 20,000 regular forces with 30,000 reservists

Marching on Parliament: The Royal Regiment of Fusiliers will be cut as part of government plans to replace 20,000 regular forces with 30,000 reservists

Brothers: Colleagues acted as pall bearers carrying the coffin of father-of-one Lee Rigby earlier this year

Brothers: Colleagues acted as pall bearers carrying the coffin of father-of-one Lee Rigby earlier this year, Mr Rigby this week described how his family had been supported by his son's former regiment in the aftermath of his murder

Grieving: Lyn and Ian Rigby pictured at their son's funeral at Bury Parish church in Greater Manchester in July

Grieving: Lyn and Ian Rigby pictured at their son's funeral at Bury Parish church in Greater Manchester in July

'The Government has spoken about efficiencies and cost savings, but there is no explanation for this unfathomable decision.

'This has been a striking demonstration of poor management and leadership on the Government's part, to say nothing of the betrayal of the hundreds of men who have served in the battalion.'

Fusilier groups from key recruiting grounds of Northumberland, Lancashire and Warwickshire joined the march.

Tory MP John Baron, a former Fusilier, said: 'The axing of 2RRF proves the Government's mishandling of these army reforms.

'It makes no sense to save less well-recruited - and therefore more expensive - battalions.

'It is yet more evidence that Government plans to replace 20,000 regulars with 30,000 reservists are on the rocks.

'Replacing regular troops with reservists will be expensive and lead to unacceptable manpower and capability gaps, but the Government seems determined to plough on blindly.'

The MoD said the cuts were planned to make the Army more 'adaptable to future challenges'.

A spokesman said: 'We have been clear that the regular Army is becoming smaller and over a year ago we also announced changes to its structure so it is more reflective of the complex global situation.

'To suggest decisions were taken on recruitment performance alone is a fundamental misunderstanding of the Army's process.'

* Michael Adebolajo, 28, and Michael Adebowale, 22, have pleaded not guilty to murdering Drummer Rigby. The pair also deny separate counts of attempting to murder police officers who arrived at the scene in Woolwich.
 

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